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Long IslandReligion

Asking the Clergy: What's your favorite religious holiday and why?

From left, Dr. Panna Shah of the Long

From left, Dr. Panna Shah of the Long Island Multi-Faith Forum, Samantha Tetro of Samantha's Lil Bit of Heaven Ministries, and Rabbi Tuvia Teldon of the Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island. Credit: Long Island Multi-Faith Forum; Judy Donnenfeld; Chabad.org

Religious holidays offer a respite from daily life and an occasion to delve more deeply into faith — alone in prayer or meditation, or in the company of other believers. This week’s clergy discuss the religious holidays and festivals that mean the most to them.

Panna Shah

Member, Long Island Multi-Faith Forum

Throughout the year, Jains celebrate holidays that have significant meaning to me. Our major holidays include Mahavir Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Mahavir, the last great sage, whose exemplary life and teachings were celebrated earlier this month. We also celebrate Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, in October, commemorating the day Mahavir achieved salvation.

My favorite Jain holiday, however, is Paryushan Parva, a grand festival of introspection, personal enlightenment and achievement that may lead to the liberation of the soul. Paryushan involves self-discipline through fasting, equanimity and other ascetic practices. Men, women and children as well as monks and nuns undertake fasts with varying strictness. In this way we improve self-control and discipline. We read scripture, study the life of Lord Mahavir, meditate and repent of violating knowingly or unknowingly the basic rules of conduct of a Jain. During Paryushan, there are regular sermons and ceremonies in the temple. On the last day, Jain members greet each other and ask for forgiveness by saying, “Michhami Dukkadam,” an ancient Prakrit phrase, which means, “If I have offended you in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or action, then I seek your forgiveness.”

I particularly like this holiday because it gets me to look within and examine my life during the past year as I attempt to improve myself going forward.

Samantha Tetro

Samantha’s Li’l Bit of Heaven Ministries, East Northport

Definitely Passover! I find it to be the one holiday where fascination meets revelation. So much can be gleaned through the telling of the Passover story. Just through the symbolic elements on the seder plate (bitter herbs, shank bone) one can see how the Lord reveals his plan and desire to have a personal relationship with each one of us. From the cup of sanctification, judgment and redemption, the Old Testament comes alive with the good news of the Messiah returning to share the cup of praise with us for all eternity.

I see Passover as a holiday that marries the Old Testament to the New Testament. The similarity of a lamb sacrifice in both the Old Testament and New Testament alone is overwhelming — Leviticus 4:32-35, 1 Peter 1:19 and John 1:29. The need for a redeemer is as valid today as it was thousands of years ago. Passover is about remembering what used to be and looking forward to what is to come.

Rabbi Tuvia Teldon

Regional director, Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island

Judaism has many major and minor holidays. Each is unique and packs powerful prayers and teachings, which always inspire me.

Nevertheless, when asked which is my favorite, I have to answer it is the holiday we celebrate every week from Friday sunset until nightfall on Saturday. Observing the Sabbath creates an amazing conclusion to a busy week. Especially these days with so many obligations and distractions pulling us in multiple directions, it is such a pleasure to know that once my wife lights the Sabbath candles, the workweek is complete. I can clear my head of the static of life and refocus on the important things — God, community, family and personal growth. I look forward to recharging with Torah learning-teaching as well as reuniting with friends, congregants, prayer and good food.

In addition, I have no need for my smartphone, my laptop or other weekday necessities. By the end of the Sabbath, I feel totally renewed and ready to jump into another week with new energy. Sabbath is a holy gift from God that consistently keeps the Jewish people connected.

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